President-elect Barack Obama is leaning toward asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates to remain in his position for at least a year, according to two Obama advisers. A senior Pentagon official said Mr. Gates would likely accept the offer if it is made.
By Yochi J. Dreazen
The Wall Street Journal
No final decision has been made, and Obama aides said other people are also under serious consideration for the defense post, one of the most highly coveted in any new cabinet. Several prominent Democrats, including former Clinton Navy Secretary Richard Danzig and former Clinton Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre, are also being considered.
The decision on retaining Mr. Gates will be the clearest indication to date of the incoming administration’s thinking about Iraq and Afghanistan.
Like the president-elect, Mr. Gates supports deploying more troops to Afghanistan. But the defense secretary strongly opposes a firm timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, and his appointment could mean that Mr. Obama was effectively shelving his campaign promise to remove most troops from Iraq by mid-2010.
Several aides to Mr. Gates said that the defense chief often talks publicly about leaving the Pentagon in January and returning to his remote lakeside home in Washington state. They also noted that Mr. Gates carries around an electronic keychain whose display shows the number of days until the end of the Bush administration.
Still, speculation that Mr. Gates would remain in the job increased over the weekend when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) endorsed the idea in a CNN interview. “Why wouldn’t we want to keep him?” Sen. Reid said. “He’s never been a registered Republican.”
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaks after a tour of an Engagement Skills Trainer facility October 23, 2008 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It is thought likely that Barack Obama would act quickly to appoint a Secretary of Defense — Bush’s Pentagon chief Gates has been mentioned as a candidate — and Treasury Secretary.(AFP/Getty Images/File/Logan Mock-Bunting)
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